Thursday, April 11, 2019

The crossing over

Jayadeb, when you are in Kolkata, do find time to visit your aunt Aatmaja.She is elder to me. We were very close in our younger days. She is alone after her daughter had passed away. I will give you name of the village. It is not very far from Dakshineswar as she used to visit the temple frequently,’ said Shubodra to her son and added with a smile, “Do not forget to take some good mishti. She has a sweet tooth.”
“I will try my best Ma to meet her, But I remember your telling that we have to cross a river through a bamboo bridge to reach her village. I am scared a bit but do not worry, I will call on her, “replied Jayadeb. He knew that there was no possibility of his mother ever visiting India again and meeting her cousin at this advanced age.
When his work mainly at Delhi was finished, he went to Kharagpur to deliver a lecture at his alma mater. He took an Uber taxi at Howrah station and gave the name of the nondescript village that was not far from Dakshineswar and home for the world famous Kali shrine. He bought on the way three kinds of sweets for his aunt whose face he did not recollect. To make things easy for the driver, Jayadeb told him about the access to village only through a bamboo bridge. The driver assured him that with this vital clue he should be able to find the place.
Generally, Bengalis are god fearing people and revered Kali Ma much. But Jayadeb was an agnostic though he did not mind his mother or wife doing puja or observing rituals. He took after his father in this trait much to the disappointment of the members on the distaff side.
After a few enquiries at teashops and from passersby, he alighted at a point close to bamboo bridge. The sky was overcast though it was mid-day but there was no sign of any rain. He walked a short distance to the foot of the bridge. The state of the dilapidated bridge shocked him and in many places he noticed there were wide gaps on the pathway with bamboos missing or holding on from one side rendering it totally unfit for children and elderly. The railings to hold on both sides were not strongly attached. This must be a very old bridge not maintained properly, he thought. There was no one on the bridge save one person who had almost reached the other end. This gave Jayadeb some confidence. There was a slight soothing breeze and he could see the bridge sway slightly.
He started walking slowly taking each step carefully. The bridge was about 200 feet in length. He gained confidence as he cautiously advanced. He could see no boat on the river near the bridge save two or three near the shore on the other side of the river. As he slowly treaded, he felt a drop of water on his face and the breeze gaining intensity. The bridge started swaying a little more like a swing frightening him no end. The river was flowing with swift current. Hearing a crashing sound, he turned behind in trepidation to see a part of the bridge turned at an angle of 450.There was no way of turning back after this development. The bridge in front swayed dangerously as the wind gathered momentum. Luckily there was no rain but only a mild drizzle making the bamboo pathway slippery. Confused and disoriented at the way things changed suddenly, he turned his head on all sides to find a way to escape.
It was then he saw at a distance a temple tower that was possibly not Dakshineswar temple. The sight of tower brought back to his mind the puja his wife did devoutly to Kali Ma back at home and he involuntarily uttered “Kali Ma, save me from this mess. You alone have the power to rescue me” Another sound this time of thunder and the bridge behind him at a distance turned from 450 to 900.He cried out aloudKali Ma Kali Ma, I seek refuge in you. Please do not  let me down.”
It was then he heard a squeaky voice from below, “Babu moshai, jump down, jump right away, the bridge is collapsing.”
Holding the railing he looked down to see in amazement a small girl of about 10 years dusky in complexion in a round boat waving at him and signaling him to jump. The water was about 15 feet below and he was hesitating wondering whether it was deep enough to avoid injury.
“Do not hesitate. You are in danger. Jump immediately.” shouted the girl frantically.
The next moment he jumped into the river and the girl quickly rowed the round boat near him and helped him inside even as the boat swayed. She took him safely, though the current and wind was heavy, to the shore near which he was dropped by taxi.
“What is your name? But for you I would have gone. I thank you very much for saving my life,” he said patting her.
“I am Shyama but my friends call me Bhavani too,” she replied with a bewitching smile that was heightened by the deep dimple on both cheeks.
He took out a 500 rupee note and gave her.
” No need to pay. I do not ply boat for money. When I saw you in deep trouble, I came to your rescue. Go to Dakshinewar.It is very near. Kali Ma is waiting for you. You can go to the other side of the river by a steel bridge,” she said and gave that enchanting smile again as she ran away towards the river.
Jayadeb stood transfixed looking at the receding girl. Suddenly she could not be seen. He walked towards the shore to see the boat. The boat too was not there. How could she and the boat vanish in a trice, wondered Jayadeb as he walked to the road. An unconscious change had come about him and he felt he was strongly pulled by Kali Ma at Dakshineswar. He took a bus.
Once inside the temple, he stood entranced, even as the bells were clanging loudly along with the blowing of conches, before Kali Ma’s captivating presence. He could not see the traditional dark image with red eyes and protruding tongue but that of a dusky girl with dimples and smile of enthralling beauty. He realized Her infinite compassion and stood a transformed man.
He stayed for two hours before taking a taxi to his aunt’s house. When he met her with fresh packets of sweets and Mishti doi and narrated the incident, aunt was quick to rebuke him telling,
“Did no one caution you that the bridge is in disuse and no one uses it for a long time. The figure of a man you said you saw on the bridge could be a ghost of one of the many who lost their lives by falling from the bridge. It is not Bhavani the girl who rescued you but Bhavadarini Herself in the form of a girl. You are so blessed to have spoken to Her, even patted Her and had Her darshan in real. Shubodra, my cousin, is lucky indeed to have you as son."

Sunday, April 7, 2019

The mysterious intruders

Meenu breaking the silence during their long drive back home from Pondicherry said,” Maha, it was an awesome break from the routine for three days. I loved the beach most with its golden sand and the blue water. The surreal sunrise and sunsets with the cool breeze really fascinated me no end. I thoroughly enjoyed our long walks and standing on the water as the waves swept our feet. How did you enjoy?”
“Call me a foodie or a laggard, I loved our resort best, its swimming pool and the delicious food of different cuisines they served. I would have loved to stay longer but for the office tomorrow for both of us,” replied Mahalingam.Meenu made a grimace as he laughed over his own remark.
It was past 10 pm when they reached their villa in the gated community. The delay was due to dinner at a wayside hotel where the service was as poor as the food served. Meenu opened the house with her keys as Mahalingam brought the boxes inside. Totally exhausted they hit the bed soon after a wash and change.
It was 7 am and the maid had not turned up. She often played truant coming up with lame excuses. The house looked dirty with dust and the air was stale. She decided to work from home for the day that gave her some flexibility. Maha will have to make do with cereal and coffee for breakfast, she decided. As for her lunch, she can always whip up maggi or some such stuff, she thought. She wished to clean the house first after Maha left for office.
It was a large single floor house at the rear of the complex with boundary wall running adjacent to it. The house was spacious with a drawing hall, living room with a master bedroom and two bedrooms and a small room doing the duty of puja and lumber room. Before she left for vacation, she had just closed the windows and the doors of all the rooms to prevent mice. The doors could be opened by just pushing them. She opened the doors of all the rooms to let fresh air enter before she came to the large guest bedroom at the rear. 
To her surprise the door was ajar. She remembered distinctly she had closed each room. Wondering, she went inside and switched on the light and fan. She looked around the room, the queen-sized bed neatly covered, the table and two comfortable chairs all in position. She looked at the floor and found a glittering ear stud without the screw on the floor. It was not hers but a cheap tinsel. Shocked she looked closely again and found a dried string of jasmine flowers by the side of pillow and banana peels under the cot. She was certain these were not there when they left. Who could have entered the house when both keys were with her and her husband?
“Maha, something suspicious I find in guest bedroom as if someone had entered in our absence. Can you please come here immediately?” she told him over mobile.
“What are you blabbering? How can anyone enter the house when both the keys are with us? When you opened the main door, it was locked. What suspicious you are referring to? It is a gated community and strangers cannot enter easily,” said Maha with some asperity in his tone at being disturbed.
“As if I do not know all that you are telling, why don’t you listen carefully? I found the door for this bedroom ajar when all the other doors remained closed as we left them before we left. More puzzling is that a bright ear stud without the screw was on the floor. That cheap stuff is not mine. A woman must have been there. What is more shocking being a string of jasmine flowers by the side of pillow? I suspect the bed has been slept upon. What do you say now? Please come immediately. The maid is also not there. I am alone.”
“Meenu, I have just come to office after three days. There are so many pending urgent issues and meetings. We both can examine leisurely in the evening. I cannot leave office now. When we two have the two keys, how can anyone enter unless he broke into the house,” asked Mahalingam.” Do you suspect para normal happenings or what?” he added
“Be sensible for heaven’s sake. Tell me first whether your set of keys are with you? I have mine in my hand.”
“One moment, let me see my bag,” he said. There was a long interlude. He had disconnected the phone. Meenu impatient as she was dialed him repeatedly when at last he came on line and said, “Meenu, it is really baffling. My set of keys are not in my bag. Where could they disappear? I have not taken it out after we left for Pondicherry.Didyou see them anywhere?” he spoke in contrite tone.
“Funny you are asking me about your keys. Whoever has entered must be a young woman, not from well to do class and the jasmine flowers on the bed leads me to think of a male companion too. Something fishy has been going on and now you tell me that your keys are mysteriously missing.” She paused for a moment when he interrupted,” Are you suspecting me?”
“What a stupid question when you were with me all these days? Please give some excuse and come here for one hour. I am afraid to be alone till we find out how it happened. I am not going into that room till you come,” she said with a finality.
“When she opened the front door for Mahalingam, she said, “Make no noise. Have this stick with you for any emergency.” They walked gingerly into the room and switched on the light. Meenu had not disturbed the things. He saw the stud, the flowers by the pillow and ruffled sheet at one corner and two banana peels on the floor.
“I agree someone has entered the room, may be with a companion but it surprises me how they could have entered. Let me fix the spare security camera I have above the door of this room inside. Whoever walks in and comes near the bed would be caught. We should be able to find out the culprit. But I honestly feel nobody has broken in,” he assured her. After fixing the camera they just closed the door as they walked out. 
“I am afraid to stay alone when you are away,” she said.
“I will drop you at your mom’s place. I don’t mind the slight detour. I will pick you in the evening on my way back from office. You are saved of the cooking chore,” he said with a smile.
As she got down at her mom’s house, she pleaded with him, “Won’t you come by 4 pm today. I wish to be back home before it gets dark,” He patted her and said,” It is done.”
When they entered the house at 5pm they rushed to the guest room. The door was again slightly open. Meenu held back Mahalingam and gave him the cricket bat she had brought from her mom’s place. He opened the door slightly further and cautiously peeped in. Finding none, he beckoned Meenu to come inside. She opened the closets to find the clothes and sheets disturbed. She saw under the cot and was relieved to find no one. Emboldened she surveyed the bed. Lo, there was a scarf, some towels, a hand bag, an empty perfume bottle and a county cap with some on the bed and the rest on floor. Strewn on the floor were also a few peanut shells and a broken piece of glass bangle. There was no doubt now that there were occupants in the room. and the second set of keys are in someone’s possession. Meenu suggested that police should be involved.
“Don’t be in a hurry. We shall check the contents in the security camera and then go to police with the evidence,” remarked Mahalingam.
“Meenu, come here quickly to see the burglars caught virtually red handed,” he was shouting at the top of his voice from his room. He kept his face seriously as she walked in to see the images in the monitor.
“Is anything seriously wrong?” she asked and turned her face to the monitor only to break into roaring laughter along with Mahalingam. Two monkeys were playing on the bed, pulling towels and sheets from the closet and trying it on them. They were seen eating peanuts and scampering around within the room. The monkeys had escaped evidently from a roadside showman.
Wondering how they came in, Meenu went to the attached bathroom. On lifting the window curtain she found the window open with space between steel bars sufficient for the animals to enter. She regretted for not closing the window before she left for vacation. It was only when Mahalingam told her the sinister part of the incident that the owner of the monkeys was the real thief by training the monkeys to enter empty houses and bring things outside. They went out and saw on the ground by the window and the wall some things taken from the closet and discarded by him. When they went to telephone desk to make a call to policemen, Meenu found her husband’s set of keys hanging on the key holder attached to wall above the table. When she turned to Maha, he was making a sheepish grin.
It is a matter of small consequence to the story that the owner of monkeys was caught soon by the police.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

The mysterious mirror

“Annamalai, when are you going to India?’ asked his mother abruptly as the family was watching TV in the living room.
Startled, his wife turned and asked ”Are you travelling? You did not tell me about your trip.”
“I had casually mentioned a fortnight back to amma about a likely trip to Bengaluru. It was finalized only this afternoon,” he told her. Turning to his mother, he said, “Next week, is there anything you want from India?”
“No, I need nothing. When you happen to be in Bengaluru, why don’t you visit our village near Karaikudi for a day and have a look at our ancestral house. It is several years after your father’s demise, we haven’t visited it. True, a distant relative is there as a caretaker. I wish that you see personally whether it is well maintained and if there are any willing to buy it. No point in retaining it when there is no likelihood of your going back to India” said his mother.
“I will try if I get the time,” he assured her
As he was travelling by car in the dusty road towards his village, he recollected his childhood trip as a young boy of seven years and vaguely remembered the spacious house with well polished wooden pillars in the front porch and inside in the large central courtyard that opened to sky in the centre. It had several big rooms adjoining the corridor that ran along on all the four sides. There was a large garden with several trees and a large well on the rear of the bungalow. The floors were tiled in various patterns and colours giving the whole house an old world charm.
As he had informed the caretaker relative in advance, he and his wife received him deferentially on arrival.
As he stood in the courtyard and surveyed the encircling wide corridor and the well maintained dust free pillars and doors, he could not but exclaim, “Uncle, it is more than two decades since I visited this place. You have maintained the house so well with not a speck of dust anywhere or broken plaster on the walls. The paints also look fresh and the varnish on the pillars is shining.”
“Your grandfather (Aiyya) had left a corpus before he went to Penang and the interest from it is used for maintenance of the house,” the relative said.
“That is thoughtful of him though I wonder whether my mother is aware,” he said as he looked around with pride at the beautiful old heritage house, a relic of the fading past.
“I will show you around the house in the morning. The room with the light on is meant for you. You may like to wash and change the dress before dinner. It is ready,” he said as he carried his box to the room. He looked at the triangular pirai (niche) on the wall by the side of the door and asked “Do we still keep oil lamps there?”
He smiled and said, “No, the old practice is gone. It dirties the wall with smoke.”
The dinner was typical South Indian type a bit spicy and hot for Annamalai but seemed tasty nevertheless from the way he relished the food. Aunty, a soft spoken lady, smiled with pride when he said that he had never tasted a meal like this and that the food served at Indian restaurants in US was a pale apology to this authentic Chettinad version.
When he walked along the corridors to his room on the other side, he found all the doors of the rooms just closed while the one next to his was locked with an unusually big brass lock.
He lingered for a moment outside the room and asked, “Uncle, why is this room alone locked with a big lock. Does it contain anything precious?”
“There is nothing precious inside though there is a big story behind the locked room. I can tell you tomorrow morning,” he replied.
“Why not now?”
“There is no light there and there is a story revolving around a strange mirror inside. It may be dusty too as it is opened only occasionally. I will have it cleaned early in the morning. Kindly wait.” Annamalai did not press further.
As they sat in the well-furnished room and chatted generally about the village, weather and crops, Annamalai abruptly asked,” It is agreed that we shall be seeing the mystery room tomorrow. But what holds you from telling me now what the story is about the mirror. I am very curious to know.”
“No problem in telling,” said the uncle and turned to his wife to tell, “You may go and close the kitchen.”
He kept silent for a few moments before he started speaking, “There is a big mirror in that room  2.5x 5 feet in an artistically sculpted wooden frame. I think this was brought by aiyya (grandfather) from Penang where he did business when he finally returned to India. It is a high quality mirror and kept in his wife’s room for her use. Your father had already settled in US. This adjacent room it appears was used by your grandmother.”
 “What have these things to do with the mirror?” interrupted Annamalai.
“Let me quickly finish. Be patient. After your grandmother’s demise, aiyya managed to live alone with a cook to assist him. I came here to help aiyya just a couple of years before his demise. Aiyya did not enter that room often and it was mostly locked. Once an elderly relative of aiyya from his wife’s side visited him and stayed for a night. He was allotted this room for his stay as it had good bed. It seems the next day when the relative was about to leave, aiyya went to his room and saw the relative standing before the mirror. Aiyya noticed the relative’s reflection on the mirror was strangely very dull almost blackish grey. Aiyya was shocked but did not express anything.
The next day evening he got a telegram that the relative passed away suddenly with no ailment whatsoever. Those days there were no great medical facilities and people relied on local Ayurvedic doctor, mostly a quack. Aiyya was greatly shocked and the thought of his relative’s dull image on the mirror came to his mind. He instructed the cook to cover the mirror with a bedsheet and keep the room locked.”
“This is crazy. Let me see the mirror tomorrow,” Annamalai said
“Surely, let me finish. Six months later a Tashildar friend of aiyya visited the village on some work and expressed a desire to stay with aiyya. He could not refuse his friend and gave the only furnished spare and locked room for his night’s stay. The next morning when aiyya went in, he saw his friend standing before mirror after removing the bedsheet. Aiyya craned his neck to find to his horror Tashildar’s image very dull as he saw once earlier. He led him out immediately to the dining table for breakfast. He was a worried man after his friend left though he remained silent mostly. It was on the third day aiyya got the information that his friend Tashildar was bitten by a snake in the field and had succumbed to it.”
“My god! It seems a strange coincidence. What happened next?”
“Aiyya was now certain that the mirror was ill fated and reflected a dull image of persons whose death was very close. This information had leaked out in the village and no one entered the room even when the mirror was covered. This gradually turned mischievously into a story that a maid who worked in aiyya’s house had committed suicide in that room for reasons not known.”
“Have you seen any ghost movements or unusual happenings here?”
No, not even once. After aiyya’s death, your dad wished to sell the house. Some parties expressed interest initially to buy the property but backed away once they heard the gossip from local villagers. One or two who were ready bid a very low price. Your dad decided not to sell immediately but sadly passed away in two years before disposing the house,” he concluded.
A faint thought crossed Annamalai’s mind whether the caretaker would have had a hand in the floating of rumour and the mystery behind the mirror with an eye on the property remaining unsold.
“OK, let me sleep. We will examine tomorrow though I think the mirror has nothing to do with deaths. One thing, do keep the lights on in the corridor, “said Annamalai.
He got up at 7 am and quickly surveyed his grandfather’s room. He must have been a methodical and organized man. He found the writing table with a few books neatly kept, a type writer, pen stand with pens and sharpened pencils, writing pad and a sunglass. There were two wooden bureaus with his clothes neatly kept. His esteem for aiyya went a notch higher.
After breakfast, the caretaker-relative took him to the adjacent room. It was evidently swept clean and dusted. The mirror stood prominently in one corner adjacent to a dressing table. It was still covered with a bedsheet. Annamalai removed the bedsheet and found the mirror spotlessly clean. He had suspected it might have been dust laden and dirty but It was a high class mirror and the reflection was excellent. He wondered how this mirror can reflect a dull image. His logical and rational mind could not accept any mysterious power to the mirror.
He turned to caretaker and asked him,” Uncle, how was aiyya’s eyesight? Did he comb his hair regularly before the mirror? Did he use any spectacles?”
“Aiyya was totally bald and had no hair. He never came to the mirror. I think his eyesight was good.”
“Did he go out much during day time as I saw a sunglass on his table?”
“No, he rarely went out but had the strange habit of wearing the sunglass during his waking hours possibly to hide the squint in his eyes. He removed it only when he went to bed.”
Annamalai laughed loudly and said,” I think I know now. Anyway do not cover the mirror or lock that room. Bring the mirror now to the corridor and keep near the entrance to enable every visitor see the mirror. I do not foresee a dull image anymore.”
The mirror was brought to the corridor near the entrance and remained uncovered.
Annamalai was satisfied and ready to leave to catch his flight later in the day. He thanked the caretaker couple profusely and took a final look at the mirror. The caretaker too joined him to face the mirror. Lo, what is happening and why is the mirror dim and our images dull worried Annamalai with his eyes narrowing in fear. There was a stunned look on caretaker’s face too.
The horn from the waiting taxi hooted in hurry.

Monday, November 19, 2018

An encounter with a cannibal

A friend had asked me to write a horror story. This is an old one repeated for his reading pleasure and for the new followers.
It was late evening. I was sitting in the lounge of a hotel in an interior African city.
” Hey, new to this place? Would you like to see a cannibal?” asked a tall and big man from the adjacent sofa.
I had nothing specific to do and readily agreed curious to see something strange.
In a few minutes we drove outside the city to what seemed a forest and were face to face with a bare bodied black tribal man with shrunken face, matted hair, unkempt beard and beads on neck seated before a bonfire to ward off the cold. There were lines in white and orange on his face and body.
There was a look of surprise and his eyes glistened as he smiled showing his yellow teeth. He made no attempt to talk but made some gestures that I could hardly comprehend. A shudder passed through me as he looked at my white skin with interest.
I looked around for my companion. He was not seen. A lump arose in my throat when I heard a loud thud. My companion had hit the black man hard on his head.
“Don’t worry” he said as he plunged his sharp teeth with relish on the black man’s shoulder and added with a large grin showing his blood filled mouth, “I am lucky today. Black and white would make a great combo.”
As he slowly stood up with a vicious look and blood dripping from his flesh-filled mouth, I stood frozen still and dazed like a deer caught in the headlights.
” Trinng, trinng, trinng,” the phone came alive with the receptionist in her sweet drawl announcing, “Good morning,Sir. This is a wake up call. It is 4 am and your flight is at 6 am.” Highly relieved but still dazed, I thought of the terrible nightmare looking at my sweat drenched shirt.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

A tough decision indeed (twists galore)

The inspector of police was about to leave the police station for home. A constable came in to announce that a young lady wanted to see him urgently. She came soon behind him, a young lady in her late twenties. The Inspector asked the constable to remain outside. She seemed educated and spoke flawless English. The inspector was an elderly man about to retire in a year with a daughter of her age and a son well settled.
Asked what brought her to the station, she said coolly “I have poured acid on my husband’s face when he was asleep. He is writhing in pain at my home.” The inspector could not believe what he heard till she assured him that it was a fact. The inspector asked her to wait and meanwhile sent a SI with a constable in a jeep along with keys to her home to admit the man in agony in a hospital. He simultaneously arranged an ambulance to reach her home
Once this was taken care of, he asked her to narrate the events truthfully as they happened. After a glass of water, she said” I am Swati, a post graduate in Botany and a lecturer in a college. I made the mistake of falling in love with this man whom I married later. He is an exceptionally handsome guy, with an infectious smile, slightly effeminate, suave in manners and an engaging conversationalist that would sweep any woman off her feet. He is intelligent, cunning, lazy and fond of good living, easy money and adept in handling girls.
When I fell in love with him, he told me that he was a MBA and an executive in a reputed company. I have waited before his office building in the evenings till he came out for spending the evenings. He took me around to places but took care not to take advantage of my mad love for him before marriage. This made me trust him more. I have no mother.
My father an old man who is no more had one look at him and said “Swati, he rings fake to me. Something about him warns me that he is not right, though I cannot pinpoint. Don’t be in a hurry to marry him. Have his statements verified independently before you take this important decision.”
Foolish and headstrong as I was, I ignored his suggestion and went ahead with the marriage. At the suggestion of my husband, it was a simple marriage with a very few friends of his. It was only later after a few months that I could find out, he had no job, had no MBA and was a plain loafer. It transpired later he waited in the office building to pose that he worked there. I also learnt to my utter shock that I was his fifth wife and that he had inveigled earlier many girls like me and married them, gave them children and robbed them of their money. He went each night to one of the unfortunate women.”
The kindly inspector asked “Do you have any child? Have you also parted with your jewels and belongings as I see no gold on your neck or hands?”
She replied “Yes, I have lost all. Luckily I have no child. He made me abort the one immediately after marriage telling me that it would be a hindrance for planned holidays and I was then not aware of his shenanigans. The immediate provocation for my drastic step today was his attempt to cheat a young girl into a marriage. I overheard his conversation telling her that he is an IRS officer and unmarried when he assumed I was not at home. When I confronted him that I would not tolerate any more of his cheating young women and that I would complain to police, he laughed derisively and asked me to get lost.
The inspector kept quiet thinking of a plan to resolve successfully this matter. I knew his looks were his asset and I decided to take it away from him so that no girl would ever fall a victim any more to his wily moves. I had strong acid for cleaning purposes and I decided to wait till he fell asleep on the sofa after watching TV as he usually does. I took this decision consciously and am prepared to suffer punishment for it.”
The inspector kept quiet motioning her to remain silent and thought over the matter for a few minutes. He could see in the agitated young girl before him a picture of his own daughter. He could visualize the mental torture of hers having been cheated by a riffraff. He had no sympathy for the young man who got his just desserts. What he was worried was the wrong manner in which the justice was administered to him by the young woman taking law into her own hands.
After a while he coughed slightly and told her in a quiet voice” You have taken law into your own hands. This is highly wrong, a big offence and punishable. Listen carefully, you are of my daughter’s age and I trust what all you have said. Still I will make independent inquiries to verify the veracity of your statements. If he is really a culprit as you have explained, have no worry at all. You said that you poured the acid on his face when he was asleep. He must have lost his vision by now. Give me a statement duly signed that on entering the house from the college, you found the door open, your husband writhing in pain on sofa and that someone must have assaulted him with acid out of enmity. Utter no word to anyone that you did it and stick to this no matter what. I will bring this case to a successful conclusion to the great relief of his five cheated wives and to the rescue of his potential sixth victim.”
 He stood up, patted her on her shoulders and said “Don’t worry; you have a dad in me. Policemen aren’t as bad as they are often depicted.”
The story can end here. However, for some of the readers who expect a twist at the end, please read on.
It was then the mobile in Inspector’s hand rang.” What did you say? Repeat it, is it that your brother is in hospital with acid burn? Which hospital and who gave the information? I am rushing there,” he replied to his wife.
He turned to see Swati trembling in fear. “Do not worry. Our deal stands. If the man is a cheat, he will pay the price. You may go home without fear. My only wish is that your husband is not my brother in law but a different man, though my brother in law is a wastrel with all the traits of your husband.” the inspector said as he rushed to the jeep.
For those not satisfied with the above twist being unrealistic, here is another.
On hearing is wife, the inspector looked at the trembling Swati sternly without a trace of compassion he showed earlier and walked to his desk. He took her statement from the drawer and tore it to shreds and bellowed to SI,” Take her to women’s police station and keep her in the lock up till you hear from me.”
If you desire the ultimate twist, here is one.
When the mobile rang in inspector’s hand, he asked, “Tell me quickly. I am in a hurry to go out. Did you say your wife is missing? What is her name? Okay. Please tell me,” and listened quietly and looked at Swati once or twice. Finally, he said to the person on the phone, “Yes, sir, she is here. You may come immediately. I will wait for you.”
In a few minutes, a young and handsome man got down from car and introduced himself, “I am Mohan, IRS working as Assistant Commissioner," and  gave his card and showed his ID. "This is my wife Swati. I am sorry she has inconvenienced you all. She is having some psychological problem and very occasionally gets into a bout of persecution complex and imagines all sorts of things. This is the third time. We are a happily married couple. She is under treatment under Dr. Sargunaraj. If you wish, you may talk to him."
Meanwhile Swati had snuggled close to Mohan and smiled innocently at the inspector unaware of the problem she had created a while ago.Evidently the presence and comfort of her husband's proximity had calmed her mind.

Monday, November 5, 2018

A mysterious disappearance

It was raining with men and women coming out of offices and  were seen seeking cover under the porticos of office buildings or shops.
“How about a hot coffee at the adjacent coffee shop?" asked Vittal to his good friend and colleague Shoba.
As they were seated in a corner with coffee cups in hands, Vittal looking at her intently said, “Are the ear studs new? The penguin shaped one with red stone fixed on it for the eye looks exquisite on your face.”
“Yes, I fell for it when I saw it. It is a new and unique design. I bought them yesterday at the mall,” replied Shoba. She readily agreed to Vittal’s wish and posed for a selfie with him that displayed the stud prominently.
” Shoba, I have been observing you for the past two weeks and notice a look of worry in your face. Are you keeping well with no health issues? I have not seen the usual smile for a long time. Tell me if there is any problem that I can help resolve.”
She kept quiet for long time. When she did not answer, Vittal said, “Never mind, drink the coffee before it gets cold. The rain has subsided. We will make a move.”
“I am sorry Vittal. You are someone more than a friend and someone whom I could trust and in whom I could confide. Let me tell you in strict confidence what is bothering me. I have been dating secretly someone in our office for a year. You know him well as I have seen you both together often.”
“Did you say secretly dating? why should it be that way? A guy in our office known to me? How come I did not get a scent of it?” asked Vittal in a baffled tone.
“It is Vikram Arora in marketing. You must be knowing him well.”
“Who will not know that dapper guy with his charming ways and flashy style. He is close to me as we were classmates in IIT. Surprising, he has not uttered one word about you so far. I have heard friends telling he is the heart throb of many female employees. You are lucky he has chosen you. Why this veil of secrecy? If the friendship is open, it would keep others away from him. When are you both getting married?”
“It was at his insistence that I did not tell anyone and secretly meeting him in resorts and hotels on weekends. You know I have no parents or any close relative here.”
“Such an amorous development should reflect joyfully in your face. Why this melancholy look then?” If you had confided in me earlier as a trusted friend, I would have advised you not get too close to him till the wedding is decided publicly. I know him well from his college days. Do not lower your guard. I would advise you,if you really love him, to get married soonest.”
“Vittal, I am actually in trouble due to my foolishness in falling for his sweet talk. I explained to him the urgency of the marriage in the condition I am. His reaction  is callous and irresponsible. He tells me it is my problem for not being careful and asks me to abort or get lost. He even has the cheek to tell he cannot marry every woman with whom he had slept,” confided a sobbing Shoba.
“I feared this response. What will you do now? Did you consult a doctor? Vittal asked her with concern
“I will not buckle that easily. I have threatened him that I have proof of all his messages in my mobile phone and that I will lodge a complaint in the office and if needed go to police. He got jittery and asked me to wait for two months when his sister would have been married and he would marry me immediately in a gala function.”
“If I were you. I would still get rid of the problem immediately. He is not trust worthy. Do what you think is best before it is too late for redemption, “ he consoled her.
“Do not worry. I can afford to wait for two months,” she assured.
Vittal left the next day on a  long tour for nearly a month. He got immersed in work and did not think much of Shoba. He was once or twice concerned about Shoba and her relationship with that wily Vikram.
On the day he returned to office, he was busy meeting senior bosses and in meetings. Only as the evening drew close, he remembered Shoba, he requested his secretary to get her on the intercom.
“Don’t you know, Sir, she stopped coming to office two weeks after you left on tour. Our HR department’s efforts to trace her at her apartment failed as she was missing there also. She had left no message to people. The landlady had also complained to police. Our legal office has also informed the police. So far they have drawn a blank with no clue of her whereabouts. Her mobile is switched off. We are all very much disturbed. She was pleasant and seemingly had no problem. She had no romantic interest to our knowledge,” replied the secretary.
When Vittal met Vikram the next day in the corridor, the latter betrayed no emotion. On the other hand, he hugged Vittal and asked, “Where had you gone? I was told you had gone one tour. I need your help this Sunday. I am shifting my house to another locality. I want you to be at my place to keep an eye on the things at my present place as I will be busy receiving things in the new house. The truck will carry the big packages like furniture, fridge and washing machine. We will take in our cars the costly electronic and delicate items finally.”
Though Vittal agreed readily, an irksome thought crossed his mind about the coincidence of disappearance of Shoba and Vikram’s shifting to another apartment.
Next Sunday the truck had carried all heavy things to the new location. Some personal items, electronic items, some expensive glass items were stacked in Vikram’s car and a few in Vittal’s. Both cars followed the truck and reached the new apartment. A few men were arranging heavy things inside the at the proper places. Vittal called two men who were standing idle to take the  things from both cars carefully to the apartment which they did
When everyone was inside the apartment, Vittal cross checked the boot of Vikram’s vehicle to see nothing has been left behind.It seemed. empty though it was dark inside. When he narrowed his eyes and looked hard, he saw something shining in one corner at the rear. Curiously, he pulled up the mat and saw to his shock, one penguin stud with red stone. There was a reddish brown smear on one side of the stud. He took care not touch it but made sure it was one of the pair he had seen on Shoba. He closed the boot even as Vikram came down with the labourers.
Vikram thanked him profusely before Vittal took leave calmly  without revealing even slightly  the horror of what he saw and his strong suspicion. He stopped on his way at a public booth and rang the Police control number 100 and said “Please listen carefully. Look for Honda City Car number DL XX XX XX**** at ..... apartments,Third avenue, …..bagh and check rear end of the boot for a penguin shaped ear stud smeared possibly with blood and connect it to the missing woman reported if any within the last fortnight. Do not waste a moment. You may lose the vital clue. You will get a photo of the missing woman with the stud very soon.”
“Hello what is your name, where are you speaking from? Can you please hold on for a moment?” asked an anxious voice from the other end only to hear a click of the phone being disconnected.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

A rendezvous with ghosts

It was a large green lawn with colourful flower plants encircling it. The line of full grown trees at regular intervals on the periphery provided cool shade, though after 4 pm they made the place somewhat dark. Arogyasami enjoyed the scenic beauty daily sitting on the bench and often lost in thought on his many problems and a few happy memories, sometimes frowning and sometimes smiling. The frequent cool breeze laden with the scent of flowers made the place a happy hangout. He preferred to be alone but some days other people came to the lawn like him. Even when there were several benches, it irked him they always chose his bench to crowd together.
Today he had come earlier than usual and luckily there were none in the lawn. The sky was overcast and the place seemed darker than usual. He saw with interest a little yonder an overgrown squirrel struggling repeatedly to break a hard nut with its teeth when abruptly it dropped the nut and hurried into a bush as if it sensed danger. Wondering why it ran away, he saw to his horror a creepy figure that seemed like a bent human form flailing its arms and covered in black rushing towards the bush. It was just about 20 feet away. He crossed his chest with his fingers. Arogyasami strained his eyes hard into the darkness and saw the figure moving quickly towards him. Even as he wished to run away, his legs froze in fear and he fainted.
When he became conscious and opened his eyes, he saw three persons bent over him with their faces breaking into large smile and exclaiming, “He is alive.”
“What happened to you?” one asked and added, “You look as if you had met a devil.”
“True, I saw a ghost clad in black trying to catch a squirrel and failing in its attempt, it came after me. I could not see its face clearly but I will swear it was a wicked and violent ghost,” Arogyasami said somewhat recovered from the shock.
“All crap, why would a ghost catch a squirrel? There is no ghost here. I have been coming to this place for years and have never seen one or heard of such a thing. You must be hallucinating,” said Appadurai, a frail old man with a beak like nose.
“How could you say like this?” interrupted Rajappa, a tall and stodgy guy. I have heard that many people have committed suicide on these trees and their ghosts freely roam here, a few peaceful and most are harmful. They roam sometimes in white robes too not necessarily in black always. Many have died stricken by them or in fear. I am told nobody comes here after dark. In fact, I have myself encountered one such. It had grotesque misshapen features with hollow cheeks, toothless mouth and protruding tongue much longer than for us. It never walked on ground and caught me in a trice. I thought my heart would burst but summoning my nerve, I pleaded with it to leave me alone. It took a hard look at me and said with a weird smile that was scarier to look, “Sorry buddy, a case of mistaken identity. I am looking for one Appadurai who is responsible for my present state.”
The frail beak nosed guy turned pale and asked in shivering voice, “Did the ghost say Appadurai? I have never driven anyone to death.”
Arogyasami interrupted to say to Appadurai, “Ghosts never forget till they wreak their vengeance. I suggest you avoid this place for a few months. I have heard they have elephantine memory and haunt the place frequently. You are lucky to have escaped today.”
Gopanna, a short and stout guy, who was silent hitherto spoke at last, “I have personal experience with a ghost. I killed my neighbour who tried to misbehave with my wife when I was away. I came in the nick of time and hit him repeatedly with a hockey stick till he died. He said before he lost his consciousness,’ I will never let you go unpunished. Wherever I am, I will catch you and kill you.’ I spared my wife as she did no fault. I was let off by police. I have myself heard strange cries and noises at unearthly hours outside my house. We vacated the place. I am no more troubled.”
“You are lucky, “said Arogyasami.
It was already dark past 6pm on a wintry evening despite the dim lights on the lamp posts. It was then Appadurai screamed, “Turn behind and see. Three ghosts in white are rushing towards us. Let us run to safety,” even as the white figures closed in on them. Arogyasami fainted again. Appadurai started crying hoarsely while Gopanna tried to run. Rajappa stood still utterly confused.
When the three men in white uniform caught all the four, one of them shouted at them telling, “What are you doing here? You are all supposed to be in your cell by 6pm. Come along quietly or I will beat you blue.”
They followed the wardens meekly without demur to their cells in the mental asylum.